Sunday, January 24, 2016

The People vs. George Lucas (2011)

I first became aware of this when I was just bopping around on YouTube one night and came across an interview with the director, Alexandre Philippe. I can't recall who was doing the interview but, after having seen it, I know it wasn't the one that Red Letter Media did since this was an audio interview. In any case, the title intrigued me, and when I listened to the interview, I became all the more interested and wanted to see this film, especially since it was a documentary that seemed bound to happen at some point given how much this subject has been talked and argued about. I'm actually surprised that it took this long to become a reality. I can't recall exactly when it was that I watched that interview but I know that it was long before the film finally got released on DVD in October of 2011, during which my interest remained piqued but I also wondered when it would come out. I finally bought the DVD in the spring of 2012 at a Barnes & Noble and was very eager to watch it, along with another documentary I bought there, Best Worst Movie. When I did watch it, I came out thinking that it was a well put-together, researched, and informed debate on the subject and, despite what others may feel, did a good job at showing both sides of the various issues. I really enjoyed the passion a lot of the participants had for both Star Wars and George Lucas as a filmmaker in general (although some I feel were getting much more worked up than they should) and felt that they were both entertaining and informative about their opinions on the various topics. However, I don't think the film is perfect. I feel that there are both some aspects that the filmmakers focused too much time on and some sides of the issue that they could have addressed that they either don't or just skim the surface on (looking at it in more detail for this review, I think there are some missed opportunities here and there. But, on the whole, it is a well-done film not only about this subject but at how fandoms begin ultimately because, despite their current status, they're deeply touched and inspired by what they love.

Judging from interviews and from his commentary on the DVD, Alexandre O. Philippe seems like a really cool and interesting guy. Even though he's a life-long Star Wars fan and, like so many others, is unhappy with a lot of the stuff that George Lucas has done over the years, particularly the special editions of the original trilogy, he took a balanced approach with this film that I like. Instead of making it a complete Lucas bash-a-thon, which many people wish that it was, especially in regards to its ending, he decided to approach it like a courtcase and show both sides of the argument (hence the title). There is a lot of much deserved negativity heaped onto Lucas throughout but there are also arguments that in some cases, the fans themselves are as much, perhaps even more, to blame, as well as an exploration about how it must affect Lucas to have unintentionally created such a global phenomenon. Ultimately, it talks about how much love there is for Lucas' work and what he's done for filmmaking as a whole as well as the frustration with a lot of his decisions he's made from the late 90's onwards, which I think was a good way to go about it. If it had just been, "Fuck George Lucas," left and right throughout, I don't think it would have been as interesting or, more importantly, as true. Documentaries and short films are what Philippe specializes in and, looking at his filmography, some of his other work does catch one's attention simply through the title. The one I recognized the most was Doc of the Dead, which is on the impact zombie movies have had on the culture but, from what I can gather, doesn't break any new ground on the subject and talks about stuff you've heard a million times before. The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus was a title that really made my eyebrow go up but I can't find much info on what it's about other than an octopus that somehow made some accurate predictions during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. At this time, he's currently working on a documentary called 78/52 that, although I don't know its topic, will involve people like Danny Elfman, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Elijah Wood, but what I'm really interested in is the announcement that there will be a follow-up to this film that will talk about what's happened with Star Wars in the years since this, particularly the purchase of LucasFilm and the franchise by Disney, and the impact it'll have on the future (which I was originally planning on discussing here in context of this film).

There are so many people who are interviewed here that I couldn't possibly talk about them all without going on and on and on, which I can already tell this review is probably going to do, so I'll just mention those who really stood out to me. One of my two favorites is John Venzon, the editor of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, because he's both entertaining and energetic, talking about the conflicting emotions he had when he first saw the special edition of A New Hope and how it's hard to get around the idea that George Lucas himself is the "suit" to blame for how bad and disappointing many of the films have turned out, as well as informative, using his editing knowledge to go into just how some of the edits to the special editions were done. The other guy who I really like is Todd Hanson, the editor of the Onion, because of how chill and laid back he is and, like Venzon, how he's also very informative, talking about the impact of the original film as well as how quickly he switched from thinking The Phantom Menace would be beloved to reviled when he really thought about it. I also like how he said he tried to admit to himself that he was enjoying that movie, that all he needed was a, "big, dumb movie about space wizards," but that was quite difficult to do because of Jar Jar Binks. I also really like Michael Cornacchia and Mark Reilly, the guys behind Star Wars in 30 Minutes. I think they're really funny, with my favorite moments being when they're talking about the new scene with Jabba the Hutt in the special edition of A New Hope is really bad and how it made Jabba feel like a joke, as well as when they describe fan reaction to the title The Phantom Menace, especially Reilly when he says, "Everybody went, 'Y--- what the fuck does that mean?!'" New Zealand comedian Jarred Christmas has some nice moments, like when he says that the constant flow of Star Wars merchandise and the fans being drained of all their money is like Lucas giving them a handjob and trying to get more juice out and when he describes Jar Jar as a big pin that pops a Star Wars balloon that you had. TV host and producer Nar Williams' funniest moment is when he describes how, when The Phantom Menace began, he had a glow in his heart that, as the movie went on, descended down into his stomach and just sat, as well as when it didn't grow on him with the inevitable second viewing, saying, "That was a bummer, dude. That was a fuckin' bummer." Chris Gore comes across as one of those who fans who's into Star Wars a lot more than he should be, talking about how you'd think it would be easy to just get off of buying the toys and such, but I still find him funny when he says he feels like he's in therapy talking about it. And finally, there's author Neil Gaiman, whom I like because he has a very balanced viewpoint on the whole issue with the prequels, saying that fans want a copy of the last thing they saw and liked and that while fan-edits are nothing wrong, fans don't have the right to force creators of the things they love to do or remove whatever they want.

There aren't that many people in this film who I can say I don't like at all. I like comedian Richard Sandling's energy, but he doesn't contribute much other than acting like an over-excited fan. I don't hate Derek Ambrosi but, when he's talking about how he'll buy anything that says Star Wars on it and that's a contract for the stuff to continue to be of quality, I just kind of roll my eyes and think, "Give me a break." There are some moments where Nar Williams is having an argument with a woman named Boo Friedman about the concept of "midichlorians" and she gets really worked up about it and later talks about how the prequels destroyed her childhood. I'll get more into that later on but that's something that I always get sick of hearing from pissed off fans. (Although, it was funny during that former debate when she brought up scientologists and Williams immediately went, "No, stop it! Don't bring the scientologists into this!" That also leads into Chris and Tim Waffle, the two guys who sing the song, George Lucas Raped Our Childhood, which I will also expound upon later. There are a couple of other people I was going to really rake across the coals here but when I thought about it, they're not interviewees, so I can't do that here. When I get to their moments, though...

There are a few people who I think the filmmakers could have gotten a lot more mileage out of, especially since they all have the most firsthand connection to George Lucas. The one I wanted to hear more from is Dale Pollock, the author of the book Skywalking, since he mentions one of what I feel are three of the big key factors of this whole issue and, because of his knowledge about it, could have added a lot more to the real meat of the documentary. Another person I wanted to hear more from was Gary Kurtz, whom Lucas fired from his role of the trilogy's producer after The Empire Strikes Back. Kurtz mentions how the added Jabba the Hutt scene in A New Hope is completely pointless because of the Greedo scene, as well as how the conditions that he, Lucas, and everyone else had to deal with during filming made that original movie what it was, but I wanted to hear him talk about his relationship with Lucas fell apart after Empire and how he feels about what happened after his departure. In the extended interview on the DVD, he talks a bit about some conflicts between Lucas and Irvin Kershner, which leads into my feeling he was really the only person who worked very closely with Lucas who would talk about the apparent flaws of his personality and attitude but they missed that opportunity by not interviewing him more. And finally, the guy who is talked with the least, which is a real shame, is Dave Prowse. While Kurtz may have been willing to talk about some of Lucas' personal flaws, Prowse is the only person with firsthand experience who would possibly out and out bash the guy. The animosity that he has for Lucas is so bad that I've read the two of them can't be at the same convention together, which makes me want to see an interview where he rips him a new one. Maybe he did and they felt it would be too extreme for the doc itself (you can tell from the brief bit where he talks about merchandising raising its ugly head around Return of the Jedi that he has some bitterness towards the whole thing) but I would have loved to have seen it even as an extra on the DVD. I just can't help but find that kind of stuff amusing.

The score that runs throughout the film is pretty generic and only serves as a means to keep a feeling of life in the background while the participants are talking rather than just dead air, although the cartoonish, silly piece that plays during the animated opening sequence is quite memorable and puts a smile on my face. What's more memorable about the movie music-wise are the songs featured throughout it, some of which are pretty catchy. My personal favorite is David Heinzman's The George Lucas Song, which is a parody of Moskau. I really like the sound and beat of it and, even though I don't understand what's being said, I think I have a pretty good idea (plus, I like the, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha," moment). Dear George Lucas by UFO Phil, which closes out the movie, is another memorable one because it comes across as a heartfelt love letter to the man, acknowledging his burnout over Star Wars and the like, and offering to help him continue the saga. It's another thing in this documentary that makes me smile. As I said, I'll comment more on George Lucas Raped Our Childhood presently but, just from a purely musical standpoint, I'm not a big fan of that song. The beat and the lyrics don't do it for me. I feel the same way about Ian Bonds' Death Star, which you hear only the first couple of lyrics of during the third chapter of the film, although listening to the whole thing on YouTube, I do smirk at how it's a musical critique of the problems with the prequels and is peppered with comments by Yoda throughout. Yellow Lasers by MC Fontalot has a pretty cool, laid back but constant sound to it, whereas I thought John Williams Is The Man, no matter what version, was just kind of silly. It was an interesting idea to sing about Star Wars to the melody of the Indiana Jones theme but that's all I took from it and as a result, I'm glad they only showed it once.

This is the first time I've ever reviewed a documentary and, when I began preparing for this, I realized that I had to approach this differently from the way I tackle other films. This is going to be akin to the way I do TV shows and video games in that, now that I've touched on the general aspects of it, I'm going to go through documentary, hit upon each of the major discussions and points made, and give my own two cents on them, as well as mention things they should have gone more in-depth on and others that they could have done differently. One thing I have to mention, though, is that, when I did my personal introduction to Star Wars before I reviewed the movies themselves way back when, I devoted a section of that post talking about what I personally think of George Lucas and the controversies surrounding him, so if you've read that, you're going to be getting a big sense of deja vu throughout this. Hopefully it won't be too bad since this is an opportunity for me to go into much more depth than I could in that introduction. Also, this might not be one of my most visually interesting reviews since I can't keep using images of people sitting down and talking to emphasize whatever the point of a given section is, although I will do my best to find images, from the many interesting and memorable ones that this film provides, that are relevant to the subject at hand. Now, with that out of the way, let's dive into the real meat of this review.

One thing I really love is how the opening credits sequence shows the evolution (or, if you like, deterioration) of the fanbase's relationship with George Lucas. Following a brief opening that sets up the whole issue, showing a bit of Star Wars' everlasting cultural impact as well as already giving us example of issues people have with Lucas, namely by showing Jon Stewart whaling on him about the ending of Revenge of the Sith, we get a little animated sequence that shows a cartoon caricature of Lucas walking around and projecting his various movies to a slowly growing and ever more enthusiastic crowd behind him. THX-1138 garners some interest, American Graffiti gets a little more, and Star Wars has the crowd jumping up and exclaiming before picking Lucas up, carrying him on their shoulders, and putting him on a throne where he's hailed as a king. We then see a thought bubble of himself frollicking through a field with a caricature of Steven Spielberg... when an explosion in the distance causes a refrigerator to land in front of them (I know, subtle). A vague figure steps out of the fridge and runs off, followed by a panicked Lucas, while Spielberg stands there looking confused. He's then caught up by an angry mob who run after Lucas with the stereotypical pitchforks and the like, as we finally get the title. That's how you start a film.

After a small introduction that touches on how Star Wars, among other things, caused a creative spark in people everywhere, prompting many of them to want to not only watch the movies but make them, as well as how it encompasses people from all walks of life, the documentary begins with a little bit on George Lucas' backstory, mainly told by the man himself from past interviews. This first part touches on two of the three significant notions that I feel are key to understanding the issue at the core of the documentary. The first, which isn't emphasized as much as the other two, is that when Lucas discovered film, he was interested in stuff that were visually-driven rather than story-driven, such as cinema verite documentaries. In an old interview, Lucas describes his student films at USC as "visual exercises," and that he had just recently begun to, "say things," with his films. I'm going to put that away for now but keep that in mind because it will come back down the road. The second, which is what Dale Pollock elaborates on, is how Lucas felt completely beaten down by the studio system when THX-1138 and American Graffiti were recut and was determined from then on to have complete control over his work. Lucas even tells Charlie Rose in an interview that they use that he had to figure out how to manipulate the system, which is, "designed to tear you down." That leads into the creation and release of Star Wars, which no one thought would be a success but becomes the biggest movie of all time at that point and a massive cultural touchstone, leading to him being hailed as a genius. This extends right down to the marketing, which everybody who was around in 1977 remembers fondly, right down to the unique smell the toys and other merchandise apparently had. This merchandise aspect will also come back later on but for now, it's only shown as another memorable aspect of Star Wars' ongoing, multi-generational legacy.

Now, we get into the third major point, which is the idea that Star Wars became participatory culture once kids started playing with the toys and creating their own stories with them. This leads into the notion of people wanting to play in this universe that Lucas created and make up their own stories and characters in that universe, most notably through fan-films. There are just as many shots from fan films throughout this documentary as there are interview clips, maybe even more, and they are used as a means to further illustrate the endless inspiration the saga gives so many people. While it is cool to see and I do think a number of them are quite creative, like the stop-motion one that you see pictured here, those animated ones that are surprisingly well-done, and well-known ones like Troops (I saw that as a young kid on a Sci-Fi Channel special back in the day), I think the film spends a little too much time talking about them in this part. I don't mind seeing the clips in order to provide emphasis for various subjects in the other sections, like fans' reaction to the special editions and the hatred for Jar Jar Binks, but I think their very existence and diversity is focused on here long past the point where the significance was hammered home. As nice as it was to see that somebody loved something so much that they were compelled to redo it shot-for-shot with no money at all, I really don't think it was necessary to focus so much on that complete recreation of Raider of the Lost Ark, right down to how long it took to do, particularly since Indiana Jones isn't part of this discussion except for a little bit of talk on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull near the end. But I digress. If you take this notion of participatory culture and juxtapose it with Lucas' overriding desire to have control of his work without anyone tampering with it, I think you can see how they're going to eventually collide.

The hate towards Lucas begins in the second chapter with the release of the special editions, which many didn't expect to be so radically different from the movies they grew up with, and the documentary mainly focuses on the changes made to the original film, specifically the Jabba the Hutt scene and the notorious one between Han Solo and Greedo. The latter is what gets a whole lot of attention and discussion, with some arguing that complaining about is a major nitpick whereas others feel that it changes the core of Han's character and softens it up. There's some suggestions that Lucas may have done this because he was a different man in the 90's and, now that he was older and had children, he saw Han out-and-out blasting Greedo as being rather violent and brutal (which I don't agree with since Greedo had him at gunpoint and was talking like he was about to kill him) but the more important issue that this part of the film gets down to is the notion that Lucas is basically trying to rewrite history. Since he was never satisfied with the original versions, and they play an audio clip of him saying that, he's trying to redo them in the way he wanted to way back when, regardless of the fact that there's an entire generation of fans who love those original versions and now feel like he's being force-fed someone else's memories. What's more, he's also determined to replace the original versions with the special editions, saying in an article that they'll disappear and that the special editions will be what everyone remembers, a quote that they do show. They also briefly discuss LucasFilm's claim that the original negatives were permanently altered to create the special editions and discuss whether or not that's true or even possible. I'm not at all savvy about this type of stuff, so I don't if either side of the discussion holds water, but I will say, that knowing what we know about Lucas and the attitude he's displayed time and time again, I wouldn't put it past him to do that if it were possible. And as they say, it makes Lucas look like a major hypocrite since he went on a crusade against Ted Turner for wanting to colorize black and white films back in the 80's, as if he's so blinded by his determinator to have his way that he doesn't realize or care how bad it makes him look (one guy who hears about that for the first time says, "That makes me just want to say, 'Fuck him all the way,'").

I've said this many times before but my first major exposure to Star Wars was the special editions, so I don't have the nostalgia for the unaltered versions that so many others do, but I do agree with the notion that Lucas should not be barring people to see them. I don't have a problem with his actual tinkering as so many others do. It makes him look very obsessive-compulsive and I agree with the person who said that sometimes you have to realize that the work is done and that it belongs to history, but whatever. He has every right to do what he wants with them. However, trying to erase those original versions is very narrow-minded and selfish on his part for a number of other reasons. Not only is it disrespectful to the fans who grew up with them, it's also like Lucas doesn't understand that these versions, as imperfect as they are in his eyes, are what made him who he is and gave him the means to make anything he wanted (an opportunity I don't think he took advantage of as much as he should have but we'll get to that in due time). More significantly, adding the digital enhancements to the practical effects in the special editions and then making those the only versions you can see is very disrespectful to the model-makers and craftsmen who busted their asses to create them. As they say here, film is a collaborative medium and Lucas' obsession with complete control often causes him to forget that. So, as to the ultimate question that's put forth about whether something as significant as Star Wars belongs to its creator or to the public, I agree with Michael Cornacchia in that it's shared. Dale Pollock notes how Lucas may not like the idea of everyone feeling that they own his art but I would say to him, "Well, sorry man, but this is what happens when you put your art out there and people fall in love, despite the imperfections that you may see."

That notion that Pollock brings up leads into something that I wish they had touched on a lot more: how Lucas seems to take delight in trolling the fans. Kevin Rubio, the man behind Troops who went on to write an episode for The Clone Wars TV show, spends most of the documentary defending Lucas, saying that he's a big proponent for the fans and that he's encouraged people to "play in his sandbox," and another person says that Lucas has been more gracious to the fans than they've been tolerant of him, but I kind of disagree on that because there are instances where Lucas comes across as either snippy towards fans or determined to anger them. In some instances, he may have right to not be thrilled with the fans, but there are many where it's way out of line and the documentary doesn't go into that. The only real mention of it comes in the following chapter where they talk about how he seems to be antagonizing them having Jar Jar look right at the camera and smile at one point in Episode II and that's it. They could have gone into so much more, like the inclusion of Jar Jar during the ending of Return of the Jedi in the 2004 DVD version, which he had to have known wouldn't go over well, or his rather dismissive and petulant attitude towards a fan at a convention about the unaltered versions, saying, "Grow up. These are my movies, not yours." (I don't know if that incident had happened yet when this documentary was made but if so, I think it would have been something worth mentioning.) I think the biggest example could be when he did release the unaltered versions of the original trilogy on DVD (which they never mention at all except when Jay Sylvester, the creator of originaltrilogy.com, reads a PR response he got from LucasFilm about these versions, which led into the discussion about the negatives being altered), and when he was asked why he didn't remaster the picture and sound, he sternly said something to the effect of, "They're lucky I gave it to them at all." That is so telling and shows a major sense of animosity that Lucas has towards the fans, and they don't mention it at all. It's like they were worried that they were making Lucas look bad enough as it is and were afraid to say any more, but if the guy does have some negative aspects to his personality, he should be called out on it since it is relevant to the conversation and would add another side to the center of the issue and the topic of this second chapter in particular. For God's sake, he's wearing a HAN SHOT FIRST T-shirt in that image! Do I have to say more?

I think I used this image back in my Star Wars introduction
but I had to use it again because I think it sums up
perfectly what he's become to a lot of people.
Talk of the special editions and how they're possibly a business decision rather than an artistic one leads into a discussion that could have had its own chapter: in the years since Star Wars, Lucas went from being a filmmaker to a corporate entity and a businessman. It's said that the film's enormous success was, in a way, the worst thing that could have happened to him, a notion that's emphasized with a clip of Lucas telling Charlie Rose that it took over his life and was an opportunity he couldn't pass up, as well as an archival interview of Francis Ford Coppola mentioning how the success didn't lead to the independence that Lucas wanted and how he never directed another movie afterward (I'm sure that interview was done before the prequels were announced). Now, I read in the book A Brief Guide to Star Wars that, after he had checked himself into the hospital when he felt chest pains during the original film's turbulent post-production, Lucas decided right then that he would never direct another movie since it wasn't worth the stress but, regardless, this section does make a good point about how Lucas went from being a very independent filmmaker who wanted nothing to do with corporate Hollywood to, ironically, running a corporation himself. The conversation leads into the constant influx of Star Wars merchandise that's been going on in the decades since the original film and, while I can't fault the guy for seeing a quick and easy to attain wealth by taking control of it himself, I do agree with the notion that's disheartening to see someone like him become the very thing he didn't want to be, a notion that Lucas himself isn't blind to. However, we now get into Star Wars "addicts": people who buy every single bit of merchandise related to that franchise and complain about how they don't have enough money and living space to keep up with the ongoing stream of it. This is also where Derek Ambrosi talks about his compulsion to buy anything Star Wars-related and how that's a contract for it to keep being of quality, which he says isn't the case anymore. Now, I'm a fan of a lot of things and I've bought a lot of stuff related to them but I've never felt the compulsion to buy every... single... item related to it that comes out, except for when I was a naive little kid who just had to have everything. These are adults who are acting like Lucas is forcing them to buy anything he puts out, no matter what it is. There's even a woman who blames Lucas and his merchandise for ruining her life and her relationship with her family! Lady, you're the one who chose to buy all that junk! Lucas had nothing to do with it. Maybe it is like an addiction to drugs and since I've never experienced it, I don't understand it, but I'd think these people would be smart enough to understand that they have a choice to buy this stuff or not, especially since it's not vital goods like food and clothing.

The part where I get a lot of sadistic pleasure is during the first bit of the third chapter, where it talks about the overwhelming hype and build-up to the release of The Phantom Menace. You have people paying just to see the trailer, the countdown to the opening day, those people standing in line for weeks (I especially like that one guy who had a sign that read, I WILL GET TICKETS. IT IS MY DESTINY), and the actual countdown to the hour when it will be released. My favorite moment is when a bunch of people are asked what they will do if the movie sucks and a lot of them come across as very determined that there's no way it could suck, with two guys getting into a debate about it (a friend who shall remain nameless but I know will be reading this was one of those people who knew in his gut that this movie would be the greatest thing since sliced bread), and all the while, I'm sitting there with a big, shit-eating grin on my face. It gets even better when it's time and everyone is so excited, with one guy exclaiming, "Star Wars! We're gonna see Star Wars!", and the cheering when the movie starts coupled with the sight of those glowing, multi-colored lightsabers swinging in the dark. And then, as everyone says, the movie started, and that buzz died very quickly. People then went to see it twice to try to convince themselves that they liked it (one guy said he saw it in the theater like 18 times, which makes me wonder what kind of time he had on his hands back then) and only then did it truly sink in that this wasn't what they were expecting, nor what they wanted. If the fans didn't already have a lot of animosity for Lucas after the special editions, they certainly did now.

For all of you Jar Jar haters, you'll be happy to know that he gets positively evicerated in this section, not only from criticism by fans but also in the form of fan-films of toys getting sawed in half and burned, animations of his severed head in Lucas' bed, and so on. There's even an entire song lamenting how much he sucks. I have no problem with people who don't like Jar Jar and I do understand that he can be quite annoying, but that said, the sheer brutality and hatred in all of those fan-films can't be good for the world's karma. Lord, guys, chill out! And yet, what's really surprising is that all of the hate is counter-balanced by affection, not just from young kids who think Jar Jar is funny but also from adult film-viewers. There are a couple of Frenchmen who say that they think Jar Jar is proof that Lucas still intends to take risks in his filmmaking, with one of them commenting that, as a fan of burlesque, he likes the juxtaposition of the scene at the breakfast table where Qui-Gon is talking some very serious matters while Jar Jar is snatching some fruit with his tongue. Going back to the kids, it's talked about whether Jar Jar is a cartoon character invading a "serious" universe or if Lucas all along intended for these movies to be made for kids. Moreover, they talk about the possibility of it being a generational thing, that a big part of the first generation of fans were kids when they saw the original movies and that Lucas, instead of making it for all of them who were now adults, made it for the next generation of kids. I don't know if I agree with that, though, because nothing in the original trilogy, not even the Ewoks, was as over-the-top as the cartoony, potty humor in The Phantom Menace, and as they say here, if it was meant for kids, how are they supposed to follow the complex, political side of the story that not even most adults can? I don't have an answer for this question except to say that I find Lucas' statement that Jar Jar's existence is because the movies are made for kids is either complete or just plain condescending, especially given the original trilogy, which all ages enjoy. (They do also touch on midi-chlorians but I'm not going to get into that debate since it's only a small part of the bigger issue and also because a lot of these people are acting as if the Force is a real thing that has now been tarnished.)

While we're on the subject of the prequels, I'd like to take the opportunity to vent about something that you see a little bit of in this section. During some footage at some sort of convention in Texas, a guy at a podium asks if anyone there likes the prequels and when somebody off-camera does clap, he yells, "Shut up! You're wrong." In addition, you have Simon Pegg yelling at a little kid over his love for Jar Jar Binks, and while I know very well that that wasn't real and I acknowledge that the guy in the former footage didn't act like a complete dick, this is indicative of something I really get tired of. As I've made clear ever since I've been doing this blog, I hate judgmental assholes who give other people shit for what they like or don't like and when I read or hear about old-school Star Wars fans treating people who have the audacity to like the prequels as if they're lepers, it infuriates me to no end. I especially got mad when, around the time leading up to The Force Awakens, I read some real statements that Pegg said about him having no respect whatsoever for people who like the prequels, which made me say, "Well, fuck you, you asshole." I just don't understand this compulsion to shit on people for getting joy out of something that you don't like, as if the very fact that it happens is a threat to you. What I'm getting at is, you like what you like and you should let other people like what they like as well, and if anybody gets pissed at me over this or tries to say that I'm "part of the problem," you can kiss my ass because you're not changing my mind. Okay, rant over. Let's get back to the review.

The thing about the prequels in my opinion, which is not explicitly stated in the film itself, is that, since he had complete creative control over them, they are, despite all their faults, quite possibly the movies that Lucas wanted to make (some may have felt that they were intended to simply piss the fans off but I don't buy that at all). I think it's just a case of his mind being so dead-set on doing them his way that he was oblivious to or, rather, just didn't care about how the fans may have felt about them (and if you look at some of the changes in the special editions juxtaposed with the prequels, I think it's fairly clear that these are the types of movies Lucas likes to do). The discussion about how Lucas has a reached a point where he is beyond any sort of criticism and refuses to allow for collaboration of any kind, which is punctuated by interviews where he himself says that he's earned this right and that's what makes it enjoyable for him. There are some, such as Neil Gaiman and cartoonist Bill Plympton, who seem to agree with that sentiment, with the former commenting on how fans always want more of the same and the latter talking about how he only does stuff that he likes and won't take advice from anybody. On the one hand, I do agree that you should just do what makes you happy and not worry about what anyone else thinks of it but, as others bring up, Lucas' decision to do the prequels with no input at all from anybody around him makes it kind of meaningless for him to have this big, movie-making empire at his disposal, especially since that's what helped make the original trilogy so great. I think his obsession with having complete control over his work, coupled with how he felt he didn't get to do everything he wanted in the original trilogy due to time, money, and technological constraints, as well as his admitted disdain for how those movies originally turned out, makes him lose sight of that. So, it's a tough issue, and not one that's easily answered since what it ultimately comes down to the major aspects of Lucas' own personality.

Lucas' obsession for complete creative control and his unwillingness to listen to anybody is another topic that I think could have been talked about a lot more, especially with the people who have either worked with him or have met him. Like I said earlier, Gary Kurtz mentions in an extended part of his interview on the bonus features of the DVD how Lucas and Irvin Kershner butted heads over this issue on The Empire Strikes Back, which I think they could have included in the actual film, and I think they also could have had him talk about what happened between Lucas and John Dykstra over the effects in the original Star Wars and why he himself was replaced as producer on Return of the Jedi. Speaking of Jedi, you could also discuss the idea that the reason Lucas hired Richard Marquand to direct that film was because, since he was a little known director, he would be more willing to bend to his will, in addition to the fact that he was much more personally involved with it than he was with Empire. Given his disdain for that film and the notion that that's where Lucas began to become obsessed with commercialization, this could be where you'd have Dave Prowse really go off on Lucas, as well as mention how, in that documentary on The Phantom Menace, some of the people on the movie appear flabbergasted about what Lucas is expecting them to do but don't speak up about it at all, possibly out of fear. There's an ILM budget meeting shown in that documentary where Lucas is being very shrewd, saying, "I don't care how we get this done, I don't care who pays for it, I've somehow got to get my movie made," again with worried looks on the faces of the people at the table with him. You could talk about that, as well as mention a bizarre disagreement between some folks about the casting of Anakin there that never comes up again, and take the opportunity to touch on how Rick McCallum has been accused of being the biggest yes-man Lucas had working for him during that time. I once read that something happened during production of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles where a man who had a minor disagreement with Lucas arrived at work the next day to find that he no longer had a parking space. There is so much stuff you could talk about in regards to this topic, especially with Kurtz and Dale Pollock, the latter of whom mentions how he held the ideas for the prequels in his head for far too long, that they don't take advantage of.

Fan-edits, mainly whether or not they're acceptable, are discussed for a bit, which is when Neil Gaiman makes his well-balanced comment on them that I mentioned earlier. More significantly, though, it's mentioned how they go all the way back to Lucas' issue with keeping other people from tampering with his work and that they probably cut into him the deepest. This extends into an idea that people want to put their fingerprints all over the things that they have affection for, which is demonstrated with a video of a fan talking about how he feels the ending of Revenge of the Sith could have been handled so much better than it was. I'm not gonna at all act like it's wrong for him to do that because I give my own ideas about how things would have been better in my opinion in just about every review that I do. So, I'm as guilty of wanting to put my fingerprints over stuff that I see like everyone else. Ultimately, though, no conclusion is made in this discussion, with one man suggesting that the fans are going to have to accept Lucas' control over Star Wars for the time being while another says that, as our culture becomes even more participatory, he's going to have to eventually gives the fans more control. This is where you get Kevin Rubio arguing that Lucas is the biggest proponent of the fans, citing that he holds a contest for fan-films and the like, and the notion that he's more gracious to them than they've been tolerant of him, which, if you remember from earlier, I don't completely agree with. The section ends with the idea that, for a guy who's very controlling over his creations, he made a serious blunder about it early on with the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special, which he's always said he wished he could completely destroy every copy of. The content of the special, particularly that weird as hell section where the grandpa wookie is watching what can only be described as a virtual sex fantasy, is talked about very briefly, but what they do get to is that Lucas isn't as all-controlling as he'd like to be.

The final part of the film begins with how a number of fans have either walked away from Star Wars completely or are now filled with venom for both it and George Lucas. You have videos of people ranting about he must atone for his mistakes, with one guy going as far as to tell him walk off a short bridge and yell that his movies are the worst shit imaginable. This is where George Lucas Raped Our Childhood comes along, which is the kind of stuff that really gets on nerves. I agree with Kevin Rubio: nobody raped your childhood. Did you buy the toys? Did you watch the movies again and again? Do you still have fond memories of that time in your life? Well then, nobody can take that away from you, least of all George Lucas. It's why I don't agree with the idea that Lucas (and Steven Spielberg, although he doesn't get mentioned hardly at all) raped Indiana Jones with the fourth movie. Putting aside the fact that I personally like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I don't understand how that destroys all of the warm memories one would have for the original movies. If you don't like it, then don't think about it and just continue watching the ones that you do like.

The parallel between Lucas' life and career and the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, one that Lucas himself comments on in an interview that they show, is mentioned, with the idea that the saga is kind of autobiographical in a sense given that you can look at Luke in the original film as Lucas as a young man in how he's desperate to escape the nothing planet that he lives on, just like how Lucas wanted to get out of the little town of Modesto. Most significantly, though, is how Lucas always strove to stay independent of the corporate Hollywood system, having once told his father that he would never be a businessman like him, and yet, eventually found himself as the head of his own corporation, similar to how Anakin tried to be a great Jedi but fell to the Dark Side. A lot of the disdain for Lucas does come from that concept, that the fans originally admired him for fighting the establishment and then, he became the establishment himself, causing a lot of conflicting feelings on their part. Plus, I don't think it's a coincidence that he created the three movies that the fans love when he was a true "rebel" and the ones they loathe once he had built his "empire" and had everything at his fingertips. It's one of the most dynamic instances of life imitating art that I can think of.

So, to sum up my own personal opinion of George Lucas, as the people in this documentary do (with Todd Hanson describing him as a big, bloated billionaire with the soul of an idealistic hippie, a little, alienated kid who used to tinker with things within that, all in the middle of a gigantic corporation), I think he was a shy, socially awkward kid who discovered filmmaking and wanted to make experimental films but found that he couldn't tolerate the control of the Hollywood system, so he became determined to do things his way and succeeded in a way far grander than he ever could have imagined. That gigantic success, however, took over his life and he felt compelled to do nothing but spectacle films like Indiana Jones and especially Star Wars, as they mention here, all the while still trying to exert complete control over them and not let anyone else mess with them. This single-mindedness led to him unwittingly alienating and, in other instances, acting like a complete douche towards the generations of fans and devotees who felt that they had a right to these stories and characters just as much as he did, and when he decided to continue the Star Wars saga, it led to him making movies that he wanted to see but very few others wanted to. And in the greatest ironies, his success ultimately led to him becoming the very thing he wanted nothing to do with, which has to torture him in many respects. He's quite a complex person when you get right down to it and all of this must really pressure him. That doesn't excuse the really dumb decisions he's made and the numerous instances of questionable behavior and judgement, mind you, but, on the whole, I can't help but feel some sympathy for the guy and for the position he's been in since 1977.

There are many people who feel that the documentary's conclusion was a major letdown in that the filmmakers didn't completely crucify Lucas but I feel that it comes down what your personal opinion is. If you absolutely despise the man, then you're going to be really irritated by the ending because it will look like they wimped out but, if you're like me and you do have some sympathy and admiration for the man, despite all of the admitted downsides to him, you will agree with what it all comes down to, which is that Lucas does deserve some merit and respect. He has inspired a good number of people and there's no denying that he does and has always had talent... just not in writing dialogue or in directing actors that well. And as is stated, there wouldn't be so much ire for the ill-advised stuff that he's done if there wasn't love for his work in the first place. Many can't look past the contempt they now have for Lucas and will probably despise him for the rest of their lives but, in addition, there are others who still have a lot of affection or, at the very least, admiration for what he has accomplished in his lifetime and are able to hold onto that, despite the inexcusable things he's also done. Hopefully, now that Disney is the one behind Star Wars, Lucas will be able to let go of his major control issues with it and go on to make those experimental films he's always wanted to make and he's said he now intends to do. (It might be wishful thinking given his history, in particular when he said he intended to do that after Revenge of the Sith, which never came to pass, but, hey, you never know.) So, my two cents on the whole issue is that, while the fans do have a lot of things to be angry at Lucas for, it's important not to lose sight of why he was once and, in some circles, still is respected and loved.

The People vs. George Lucas is a very interesting and entertaining documentary. It's both informative and funny, serves as a great discussion about the relationship between artists and their admirers, many of the participants are energetic and easy to like, there are many good points made throughout, and it manages to keep the conversation well-balanced rather than letting it devolve into a one-side attack (as some people think it is). It's not perfect, given that I feel that it spends a bit too much time on the phenomena of fan films, as impressive many of them are, there are some other aspects of the equation that they either don't mention at all or only scratch the surface on, and, even though it was necessary to show it, it does sometimes revell in the most negative aspects of fandom. Speaking of which, I'm really hoping I don't get a lot of mean-spirited flack for my opinions here given how volatile this fanbase. I don't mind you not agreeing with me; I just ask that you not act like an asshole about it. In any case, despite its flaws, I do recommend this film if you're at all a Star Wars fan or, at the very least, have an interest in this kind of subject.

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